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Fat Got a Bad Rap: Sugar is the Villain!

Back in the year 1977, the low-fat diet was recommended to all Americans. Looking back, it is interesting to see that the obesity epidemic started at almost the exact same time the guidelines first came out.

Although this one fact doesn’t prove anything (correlation does not equal causation), this does make sense because people started giving up traditional foods like butter, in place of processed “low-fat” foods high in sugar.

sugar quoteSince then, many studies  have been conducted on the low-fat diet. These studies show clearly that the low-fat diet does not cause weight loss and has zero effect on cardiovascular disease in the long term. In fact, when we started taking out the fat in our diets, we started replacing it with sugar to make it more pleasing to our taste buds.

As-a-Matter-of-Fat-infographic-01Ever-increasing amounts of sugar have invaded the American diet in the past 40 years, and it’s not because we’re eating more oranges and apples. The average American consumes 130 pounds of added sugar per year—that is, sugar that’s an ingredient in food rather than sugar that’s naturally occurring in food. Since sweetened beverages get most of the bad press, you might think that the majority of our added sugar intake comes from soda, juice, and specialty coffee drinks. Nope. Sweetened drinks account for only one-third of that amount.

You might also think that most of that added sugar gets consumed away from home. The cheesecake chaser after a nice dinner, fast-food pit stops, convenience store snatch-and-grabs—nope again. We consume two-thirds of those 130 pounds at home.

Which means, the sugar is coming from inside your house. One study that analyzed almost 86,000 packaged foods over a 4-year period found that 75% contained added sweeteners. The vast majority of it is in the form of white table sugar and the farmer-subsidized high-fructose corn syrup.

On top of all that sugar, we are also drowning in other refined carbohydrates. The average daily calorie intake in the United States has risen nearly 25% since the 1970s. More than half of that increase has come from grains and sugar. We eat 11 servings of grains and grain products on average per day—about twice as many as we should be eating—and we aren’t talking quinoa and wheat berries. Most of those servings come in the form of refined grains. This category doesn’t just include white flour, bagels, muffins, and white bread. Pretzels, crackers, pita chips, white rice, pasta, and pizza crust are also part of that group. So are highly processed whole grain products—such as brown rice cakes, whole wheat bread, breakfast cereals (like whole grain flakes, cream of wheat, and instant oatmeal), and whole wheat crackers. These foods may have fiber and labels touting the grams of whole grains they contain, but because of the way they’re processed, they behave like sugar in your body. On top of that, grain products are often sweetened with sugar!

Not you, you say. You don’t eat that much sugar. Maybe you don’t. But maybe, just maybe, you do and you don’t even know it. After all, research has found that we think we consume fewer calories than we do. It isn’t a stretch to say that you may be seriously underestimating your intake of sugar, especially when it goes by so many different names and masquerades as healthy foods.

How did we arrive at this sugar-drenched state of affairs? The truth is that the food industry has hijacked our natural attraction to sugar and easy-to-digest carbs—a desire that’s both physical and emotional—and radically altered our expectations of “sweet.”

sugar is toxicHere are the maximum amounts of added sugar you should be eating each day. Women: No more than 6 daily teaspoons (100 calories, 25 grams); Men: 9 daily teaspoons (150 calories, 37.5 grams). Read more about the Secret Sugars in Your Refrigerator and Pantry.

So, what’s the conclusion here?  Eating a diet with good quality fat and protein prevents and even reverses diabetes and pre-diabetes (diabesity).  And eating sugar and refined carbs cause diabesity. Some foods like milk and fruits have naturally occurring sugars. Those aren’t the problem—it’s the added sugars. Use this easy trick to spot secret added sugars on the ingredients list: Anything that ends in –ose is sugar, and so is anything with sugar or syrup after the name denotes added sugar. So here’s the take-home message: Fat doesn’t make you fat.  Sugar makes you fat.  Eating good fats can actually help you stay healthy.  So, eat good quality fats and real, whole, fresh food (whole foods are those that look similar to how they come out of ground, tree, etc.) and eat your way healthy!


Adapted from Authority NutritionFood for Thought and Prevention (Excerpt from The Sugar Smart Diet by Anne Alexander with Julia VanTine (published by Rodale, which publishes Prevention)

Read more about the Effects of Sugar on Your Brain and 11 Weird Things Sugar Is Doing to Your Body